I Help Cure Cancer in My Sleep

kidartI’ve started working the night shift. Last night, it was a research project on childhood cancer. Earlier in the week, I worked on Muscular Dystrophy, clean water, and human proteome folding (whatever that is). And all I did was what I have done every night since I first bought a computer: I turned out the light and went to bed, knowing that after a backup, the computer would tuck itself in to sleep mode.

For years, my husband has done almost the same thing, except that when he’s gone to bed, different geometric patterns have tumbled across his screen. “Where’d you get that screen saver?” I asked him once, long ago. Turned out it wasn’t really. His computer was being used, via the Internet, to run calculations for research projects. (The project at the time I asked involved something about signals in outer space. My daughter and I got a lot of teasing mileage out of that one.)

The came Watson’s epic adventure on Jeopardy and I learned that IBM is donating Watson’s first-place winnings– $1M– to charity, with 50% of the winnings going to World Vision and 50% going to World Community Grid. The World Community Grid is what my husband’s computer has been doing all these years.

From the web site:
World Community Grid brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity. It does this by pooling surplus computer processing power. We believe that innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can help make the planet smarter. Our success depends on like-minded individuals – like you.

Some of their current  projects include discovering dengue drugs, fighting AIDS, clean energy. So I signed up.

Joining meant I needed to download some software. You can use a Mac or a PC. You can also set preferences for when the work will be done, how much of your computer’s resources will be used, even which projects you’d like to help with, or you can pick pre-sets. I’ve set my preferences so that work is suspended whenever I use the computer and doesn’t occur when the laptop is on battery power.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why doing this is so pleasing, but it is.

Here’s a screen shot of the Manager that’s living on my Mac. I’ve been working hard.  Maybe you’ll join me?


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